Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) assess correlation between traits and DNA sequence variation using large numbers of genetic variants such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) distributed across the genome. A GWAS produces many trait-SNP associations with low p-values, but few are replicated in subsequent studies. We sought to determine if characteristics of the genomic loci associated with a trait could be used to identify initial associations with a higher chance of replication in a second cohort. Data from the age-related eye disease study (AREDS) of 100,000 SNPs on 395 subjects with and 198 without age-related macular degeneration (AMD) were employed. Loci highly associated with AMD were characterized based on the distribution of genotypes, level of significance, and clustering of adjacent SNPs also associated with AMD suggesting linkage disequilibrium or multiple effects. Forty nine loci were highly associated with AMD, including 3 loci (CFH, C2/BF, LOC387715/HTRA1) already known to contain important genetic risks for AMD. One additional locus (C3) reported during the course of this study was identified and replicated in an additional study group. Tag-SNPs and haplotypes for each locus were evaluated for association with AMD in additional cohorts to account for population differences between discovery and replication subjects, but no additional clearly significant associations were identified. Relying on a significant genotype tests using a log-additive model would have excluded 57% of the non-replicated and none of the replicated loci, while use of other SNP features and clustering might have missed true associations.
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